Baby almost 8 months and still not sleeping well

by Jill

Question: Hi! I'm soon going to change my name to "at the end of my rope" I have an almost 8 month old and a 3 year old. My baby started waking after 30 or 40 minutes at 6 weeks old for naps and bedtime. I was soooo not happy since my 3 year old did the same thing (but now a good sleeper) I have tried going in and soothing before the awakening happens and it sometimes works. Sometimes he will just sleep longer on his own but not often. He co-sleeps with many, many, many night wakings.

I time his naps based on his sleepy cues and mostly he wants to nap every two hours so how do I have specific nap times when I never know how long he will sleep? He usually will nap about 2 hours after waking and this seems to be the nap he will sometimes sleep longer. But if he sleeps 30 minutes do I keep him up hours until a next specific nap time? I never know how long or what time he will nap.

I'm also very frustrated because of my 3 year old. I don't want to keep taking so much time away from him trying to get the baby to sleep more. I'm nursing still and this requires even more time. Bedtime routine is consistent and the same and it depends on the time of his last nap as to when he falls asleep. He doesn't sleep any longer in a stroller or carrier. He will fall asleep in my carrier but will wake up at 30 or 40 minutes! This includes the car as well.

He's usually asleep by 7 or 7:30 but will wake up after 30 or 40 minutes. If he has decent naps and isn't up much more than 2 hours before bed he will sometimes not wake up, he did this twice last week. He awakens about 6 times after going down at night and stays in bed 12 hours (of course waking up). My husband isn't home from 2pm until about 12 or 1am. Trying to get all the facts in but am a bit frazzled. So tired and feeling like a terrible Mom for getting so frustrated with him. I read one Mom that said she felt like throwing herself down the stairs to get a trip to the hospital just to get some rest! I'm almost there!!!

Thank you!

Heidi's Answer: Dear Jill, That is very tough indeed and I totally hear you about how frustrated you feel. But please do not feel 'like a terrible mom'. Quite the contrary, you are doing everything you can to try and help your little one sleep!

First of all, please do continue with the things you have done that worked. Such as going in to soothe before the awakening: even if it does not work each time, it is so worth doing it. And it will help him sleep longer stretches in the end.

Also when carrying him in the carrier you may be able to keep him asleep for longer if you make sure you are moving well at the 30-40 minute mark - although I am supposing you have tried this, and indeed it's the case in the car as well ... Maybe try a different position in the sling? It would be really good if you could do one specific nap in the sling (even if it is short), that would give you some time to go out with your 3-year old, spend some time together, maybe go to the park or for a walk ...

You have been going for the flexible schedule so far with naps, by just following his sleepy cues. This is a good idea and can work really well for some babies, but since it is not giving the sleep we want, I will advise you to go for a stricter schedule. Not to worry, there will still be room for flexibility and you won't have to do it forever.

But it will be a good experiment: it can have a huge effect on sleep quality and the structure will also help you find more time for you and your older child.

Let's use what you observe: you write that the sometimes sleeps better, i.e. not wakes up after 30-40 minutes when going down for the night, if he has not not been up more than 2 hours before bed. Fix that bedtime (as is now, around 7pm) and the nap accordingly so say last nap around 4pm.

Move back in the day to set the nap times. How about 10am, 1pm and 4pm as nap times. Without being too rigid, I would try to go for these for at least a week, two if it's not too difficult. Having them a bit further one from another will also help him sleep longer. Once you get out of the short-stretch-many-naps cycle (with the nap extension work as we said above), it will be easier to hold out until the next nap.

If these naps are really too far away for him now, namely he gets truly overtired if you keep him up for them, squeeze in an extra nap. But do keep regular times.

Choose one nap where you will go for a walk consistently. Work on the nap extension as often as possible with the other naps.

You don't mention how she goes to sleep, but if you are nursing or otherwise helping her to sleep, you may find my No-Tears Self Soothing guide really helpful. If you nurse to sleep, wean from that gradually first with the chin-up unlatch method as I explain in this post: My seven month old wakes up several times a night.

Good luck, I really think the added structure in the days will help both you and your son to improve sleep.

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